We are always on the look-out for new and different places to camp and fish and after hearing glowing reports for some years, Wooli, on the NSW Far North Coast, has been on our ‘to try’ list for some time.
Usually, all the hype of advertising and from mates down at the club who’ve been there done that, is quite often just hype and visiting some of these places has been disappointing. However, Wooli seems to have a lot going for it. The fishing and crabbing in the Wooli Wooli River are excellent and there is also so much more to see and do.
The village of Wooli is on a narrow peninsula bounded by the Wooli Wooli River to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east and is surrounded by the Yuraygir National Park. This area also adjoins the northern sector of the Solitary Islands Marine Park, which encompasses the estuaries, beaches and islands from Sandon River in the north to Coffs Harbour in the south.
Wooli is 36km from the Pacific Highway and the turn-off is 12km south of Grafton. The well-signposted road also leads to Grafton’s airport. As you drive through the Yuraygir National Park towards Wooli you pass by Lake Hiawatha which, together with Lake Minnie Water, form the water supply for the surrounding villages. This is not a recreational area and water-sports, including fishing, are not allowed.
The emus and kangaroos will frequently greet you as you pass through the national park on your way to and from the village. The Wooli Wooli River flows through the forests of the national park, making it one of the purest waterways in Australia. It is also one of the best nurseries of the Sydney rock oyster, plentiful supplies of which are available at the local seafood shop.
The river has an excellent supply of bream, whiting, flathead, tailor, mullet and many other species. Fishing can be productive in the tidal river all year round. Drifting a live bait or large pillie on the outgoing tide can produce some huge flathead, while anchoring in a quiet bay in the evening can result in some very healthy bream.
The point is that all types of fishing can be employed with usually good results. The river can be negotiated for approximately 20km by small boat or canoe, and the deeper areas are ideal for tinnies or fishing boats up to 16ft. However, because the river is tidal, sandbars appear all through the system at low tide, so some caution is required.
`The estuary system is very healthy and supports blue swimmer and mud crabs but there are Marine Park no-go zones, so check with the local authorities before you set crab pots and traps any farther upstream than The Forks. Wooli township has been designed so that there is easy access to the river for shore based anglers, and there are several areas where fishing from the banks with a gentle cast can be very productive.
Beach fishing is also very productive. There are several areas where the gutters are excellent and the breakwall can create some interesting backwash areas when there are southerlies or rough seas. The rock walls can also produce many surprises with jewfish in the enormous class often being landed. The entrance can be very dangerous and it is advisable to talk to the locals before venturing outside as conditions at the bar can change rapidly.
The area is part of the Solitary Islands Marine Park but there are still large areas of the park which can be fished. If you are wary of crossing the bar or on your first visit to Wooli, I suggest you visit Stan Young at the Wooli Deep Sea Tours and Dive Centre.
Quite often it is safer and more enjoyable, when on holidays or exploring a new area to go out with the professionals, who really do know where the fishing is best. Stan and his wife Claire operate seven days a week and as well as deep sea fishing, they also host scuba diving and snorkelling around the islands.
Accommodation is varied, depending on budget. There are holiday cottages for rent, and the Pristine Waters Council operates the caravan park in the centre of town. From there it is a short walk to the post office, seafood shop, general store and the bowling club with its surprisingly good Chinese restaurant.
On the way into town is the Bushland Holiday Park, where we usually stay at a waterfront camp site. Once we launch the boat from the park’s ramp, it can be secured at the water’s edge in front of our camp, ready to go whenever we are. There are powered and unpowered sites, a swimming pool and a freezer for the use of park visitors to store bait and so on. Jan and Richard look after their visitors and they also have cabins for hire.
There are several low-tide sandbanks a short walk from the camping area where you can pump yabbies. The local bream consider these a delicacy as they cruise the shallows after dark, right in front of the camp site, so night fishing can be a pleasure from the convenience of your camp chair in front of the fire. Open fireplaces are also provided for campers with most sites having access to a barbecue plate. The caravan park is next door to the Wooli Hotel Motel, a service station and general store, takeaway food and the dive shop.
Bushland Holiday Park 6649 7519
Wooli Caravan Park 6649 7671
Wooli Holiday rentals 02 6649 7575
Wooli Beach House 02 6642 7822
Wooli Hotel-Motel 6649 7532
Offshore Fishing with Stan Young 6649 7100
Clarence River Tourism 6642 4677
Wooli is the host town of the Australian Goanna Pulling Championships.
These are usually held on the June long weekend but this year will be on Easter Sunday.
They don’t really pull goannas. The tournament involves big blokes facing off prone against each other and resting on extended arms in a tug-o-war with a belt connecting their heads. It’s another of those unique Australian sporting events that is great fun but probably won’t make the Olympics.
Looking out to sea from the breakwall at the entrance of the Wooli Wooli River.
The long beach at Wooli stretches north from the breakwall to Diggers Camp. There are so many gutters to choose from and plenty of opportunities to fish.
The breakwall at Wooli is a popular fishing spot with the tide coming in. The beach side was the best option for these local anglers.
Five metres from the tent door, the boat waits at the ready. The camp site at the Bushland Holiday Park is right on the river and picnic tables and barbecues are provided for nearly every site. Possums come down from the trees to join the evening activities.
A happy angler on board a Wooli Deep Sea Tours boat with a beautiful jewfish.
One of two fast, comfortable boats operated by Stan Young’s Wooli Deep Sea tours. This is a jet-propelled Steber, the other a Sailfish power cat.
Big Spanish mackerel prowl the inshore washes and bommies and out around North Solitary Island.